Less Than One Extra Hour Of Sleep Can Improve Your Health, Study Finds

mbg Editorial Assistant By Abby Moore
mbg Editorial Assistant
Abby Moore is an Editorial Assistant at mindbodygreen. She earned a B.A. in Journalism from The University of Texas at Austin and has previously written for Tribeza magazine.

Image by BONNINSTUDIO / Stocksy

For most adults, sleep is a highly coveted commodity. The more we want it, the harder it becomes to obtain.

Adults need at least seven hours of sleep per night, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), for good health, and most adults are not meeting that criteria. Hormones and stress can interfere with sleep, but mostly, we convince ourselves that we have too much work to do or that one extra episode can't hurt.

But the idea that busy days keep us from sleeping has been debunked by a recent study. The research found that despite busy schedules, college students were able to find time for extra sleep (approximately 43 extra minutes each night, to be exact), and it improved their overall health.

The study, led by scientists at Penn State University, gave 53 healthy undergraduate students wrist monitors to track movement and sleeping patterns. In the first week, students kept their normal sleep schedule. During the second week, they were asked to sleep one extra hour each night. As expected, most students were unable to squeeze in the full hour, but 66% were able to add more than 30 minutes nightly. 

After each week, researchers found that less than one hour of extra sleep decreased blood pressure and feelings of sleepiness. 

While 40% of students reported excessive sleepiness during week one, more than half said they felt less sleepy after upping their snooze-time. More surprisingly, participants' systolic blood pressure dropped by seven points. 

The researchers expected increased sleep to boost mood and cognitive performance, but they "did not expect to see any difference in blood pressure and were surprised by the results," Anne-Marie Chang, Ph.D., and leader of the study told mbg.

College student or not, sleeping can be a struggle. This information has the ability to influence people beyond the college campus. Understand the health benefits will hopefully help people prioritize bedtime.

"I think our findings can help people identify the importance of sleep and introduce the idea that even small changes in their behavior can impact health outcomes," said Chang.

If you have trouble sleeping, Chang suggests starting with things you can control. Try getting into bed earlier, even if you don't fall asleep right away. Avoid substances that interfere with sleep, like caffeine later in the day and alcohol. For additional help sleeping, try these tips from an expert. 

Ready to learn more about how to unlock the power of food to heal your body, prevent disease & achieve optimal health? Register now for our FREE web class with nutrition expert Kelly LeVeque.

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